ON THE BEACH AT WAIKIKI
The annual winter baseball meetings ended last week in Honolulu and a disgruntled observer said they were a lot like the Don Ho show that the minor leagues presented at their association's banquet: Both the meetings and Ho (hum) promised a lot but delivered little.
The Hot Stove League was supposed to be fueled by winter-meeting trades, and when the Red Sox sent star Third Baseman Carney Lansford to the A's for slugging Outfielder Tony Armas on the first day, the press conference in the Koko Crater Room of the Sheraton Waikiki was uwila with anticipation of more. But then, for a couple of days, nothing. Oh, sure, Bowie Kuhn made a dandy speech. Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I. showed up and was given a Detroit Tiger cap by Sparky Anderson. The Mets announced the marriage of Broadcaster Ralph Kiner to Di Ann Shugart. And the Cubs showed off some snappy stationery.
After that, things heated up a little. George Steinbrenner signed free agent Steve Kemp to a five-year contract, which for the moment gave the Yankees 10 outfielders at an annual cost of around $8 million. "George is collecting outfielders like nuclear warheads," Baltimore owner Edward Bennett Williams said. "What's he building? Dense Pack?" Later that day Steinbrenner thinned the pack by sending Dave Collins, one of his prize catches last year, to Toronto, along with two other players and $400,000 the Blue Jays could use to help pay Collins' salary. The Yankees got a pair in return.
The biggest deal—hardly a blockbuster—came when the Phillies traded Second Baseman Manny Trillo, Outfielder George Vukovich and three excellent young prospects to the Indians for Outfielder Von Hayes, who had 14 homers and 82 RBIs as a rookie last summer and who baseball men feel is a coming star. Actually, the trade was made for Hayes and Cleveland President Gabe Paul's orange sweater. Philadelphia General Manager Paul Owens said, "I told Gabe that if we made the deal he had to give me the sweater. I love the color. There's a pair of slacks to be named later, too."
The Astros signed free agent Outfielder Omar (The Outmaker) Moreno, the Mets announced they had agreed in principle to bring Tom Seaver back to New York from Cincinnati, and there were a couple of other bits of news. But where was the really big trade? Excitement grew when the two Chicago clubs announced a joint press conference for 5 p.m. last Friday. What would it be? Bill Buckner for Greg Luzinski? Leon Durham for Harold Baines? Well, no. It turned out to be Reggie Waller for Tye Patterson, or Tye Waller for Reggie Patterson. Whatever.
In all, there were only eight transactions, involving 26 players. Two years ago, 59 players were moved, and it has been ages since the number of deals fell below double figures. What the meetings in Hawaii demonstrated is that baseball trading is moribund, if not actually dead, mostly because of the complexity of present-day contracts. "It's ridiculous to fly all the way to Hawaii and nobody does anything," said Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog.
It's not that no one tried. The Rangers and the Dodgers announced a trade in which Catcher Jim Sundberg would go to Los Angeles. But the Dodgers wanted Sundberg to renegotiate his highly favorable contract. Sundberg refused, and the trade was off.
"I don't blame Jim." said Texas General Manager Joe Klein. "I don't blame the Dodgers. I blame the collective bargaining agreement. It used to be that after a name was mentioned for a trade I'd run up and look at the scouting report on the player. Now the first thing I look up is his contract."